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Iowa/Illinois Young Birder Weekend

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In addition to the News Posts below, we also send a periodic eNewsletter.  You can view our newsletter archive here and you can sign up to receive future emails at the bottom of this page. 

  • April 15, 2022 9:22 AM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    On Saturday, March 26, 2022, 23 young birders, parents, and grandparents gathered at Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center near Sioux City to kick off the spring migration season. At 28℉, it didn’t quite feel like spring! But the sun was shining beautifully through the forest and we were excited for our first field trip of 2022.

    We were joined by Kari Sandage with Woodbury County Conservation who introduced us to the area. Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center is nestled in the heart of the Loess Hills landform region, a landform consisting of wind-blown soil deposits for which only one other example exists in the world (the Loess Plateau in China). After some fun facts from Kari, she led us first down to the bird feeders where we enjoyed views of some very cooperative Black-capped Chickadees and Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers. Later down the trail, we heard a White-breasted Nuthatch laughing at us from a nearby tree and stopped to admire a large cavity in a tree, a possible home for Pileated Woodpeckers which have been seen in the area.

    We turned the corner on the trail to head up to an observation platform where we enjoyed gorgeous views overlooking the area. We heard a Wild Turkey gobble in the distance and saw a distant Red-tailed Hawk soaring overhead. After leaving the platform and heading back down the trail, we caught a quick glimpse of a pair of Cooper’s Hawks in a flighted courtship overhead. We continued our hike up to a hilltop prairie, but not before stopping to look for a calling Brown Creeper in the woods (unfortunately, its camouflage worked well) and watch a Barred Owl flushed from the treetops. Once at the hilltop prairie, Kari showed us Yucca, a native Iowa plant that is unique to the Loess Hills area of Iowa. It’s always fun to see other unique critters and plants!

    We ventured back towards the Nature Center to finish our hike, enjoying the many American Robins along the way and stopping to see a Barred Owl and Red-tailed Hawk in the live raptor display. Our morning was not complete, however, without some time exploring the amazing Nature Center!

    We are extremely grateful to Kari Sandage for leading us on a fun hike and to volunteer Jemmie Dyk for her leadership on the trip. And as always, thanks to the young birders and their families for joining us! You can view some photos from our trip here and our species list here.

  • April 01, 2022 3:51 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    During the summer of 2021, Iowa Young Birders hosted the second Summer of Birds summer birding program thanks to funding from the Warren B. and Juanita E. Reynolds Fund and Iowa Audubon, Wild Birds Unlimited in Ames, and our many members and supporters. Click the link below to read about the huge success of this program for the second year running!

    Summer Birding Program report_2022.pdf

  • October 15, 2021 8:37 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    On October 9, 2021, a lively group of young birders met at Great Western Park in Manning, Iowa to search for fall-migrating waterfowl and other birds. After brief introductions, sharing of our favorite birds (always one of the most fun aspects of the morning), and discussion of what we might see that morning, we started off down the trail with binoculars in hand. The crisp fall air was full of excitement and anticipation.

    It wasn’t long before we encountered our first birds of the morning, flying circles above us and landing near the top of a nearby tree. American Goldfinches! We took a few minutes to learn about molt in American Goldfinches, as well as other birds, and learned a couple identification tricks for our state bird in flight: an undulating flight pattern and a flight call that sounds like “potato chip”. A bit further down the trail, a small group of American Robins flew over, a few of the more than 60 American Robins we would see throughout the morning. 

    While walking down the trail, we noticed a collection of nest boxes on fence posts. We took a few moments to learn about these boxes, built for Eastern Bluebirds and used by other species such as Tree Swallows, and admired the careful architecture of a nest in one of the boxes. Suddenly, young birder Noah spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying low and directly overhead, offering everyone great views of its long, pointed wings and falcon-like body shape. While definitely not on our list of expected birds, we were pleasantly surprised to see our fastest bird in North America! 

    We continued to add to our list of fall migrants along the far side of the pond. A Yellow-rumped Warbler, one of the last warbler species to migrate through Iowa, perched in a tree over the trail voicing its characteristic “chupp” all along, and we were able to patiently entice a duo of Marsh Wrens from the cattails and into view. A small flock of six Blue-winged Teal burst into flight from a shallow part of the wetland and a group of 13 Canada Geese decide to spend some time loafing on the pond. As we started back towards the parking lot, we paused several times for Northern Flickers, Blue Jays, and American Robins that were bopping among the treetops, and a Bald Eagle and Turkey Vulture soaring in tandem was a nice end to a great morning of fall birding in Iowa.

    Many thanks to all those who attend and to Ms. Tina Newman for helping organize this trip. You can view our complete species list here and some photos from our morning here.

  • September 20, 2021 10:58 AM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    On September 11, 2021, 12 young birders and parents joined us for a visit to Emma McCarthy Lee Park in Ames to experience fall migration and search for some other nesting residents unique to this large, contiguous forest area in the middle of Ames. It was a great morning for birding, as demonstrated by the calling Red-breasted Nuthatch that sent us scrambling away from the parking lot even before our introductions. This Red-breasted Nuthatch was one of four we either saw or heard in the park throughout the morning. It was a fantastic start to a fantastic morning.

    While hiking down the hill to the lower portion of the park, a Hairy Woodpecker perched on the top of a snag climbing above the canopy, a great opportunity to view this bird and learn about the subtle differences between it and its smaller cousin the Downy Woodpecker. White-breasted Nuthatches calling along the trail as well as we paused to admire a Paper Wasp hive and a couple of impressive puffball mushrooms in the woods. Once in the lower portion of the park, we heard and saw some American Goldfinches and American Robins overhead as well as a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Northern Flicker.

    We started down a trail with hopes of finding some fall migrants and we were not disappointed. We found a great flurry of bird activity that started with great views of a Northern Parula, one of the few warbler species that nest in Iowa and in the park. We were then treated to great views of a very cooperative Blue-headed Vireo, who perched head-high on a branch approximately 15 feet in front of us. Young birder Noah spotted a Magnolia Warbler in fall plumage skulky through the shrubs, who was later joined by a Nashville Warbler, and at least three different Black-and-White Warblers were gleaning insects from various trees around us. A Brown Thrasher perched high in the canopy was a nice surprise and an unexpected location for this species, and a steady stream of migrating Common Nighthawks (42 birds total) were gliding south above the canopy. 

    Further along the trail we heard a Cooper’s Hawk laughing from the trees and flushed a Barred Owl, who perched up in a tree for all young birders to see before disappearing into the forest. We also paused to view an Ovenbird silently foraging on the forest floor thanks to the keen eyes of young birder parent Ulrike. We later heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee calling from deep in the forest. We were entertained by Northern Cardinals on our hike back to the car and closed the morning with a soaring Turkey Vulture overhead, our only raptor species for the morning.

    Many thanks to the young birders and parents for joining us for this fun morning! And thanks to young birder parent Ulrike Grimaldi for keeping our species list.

    View photos from our morning here and a species list here.

  • September 20, 2021 10:48 AM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    On a gorgeous late-summer morning, 17 young birders, parents, and supporters joined us for a hike through Greenwood-Ashworth Park, a premier central Iowa birding locale nested in the heart of Des Moines. After a one-year hiatus in our field trip schedule due to the global pandemic, we were all excited to be in the field and birding together again. Our target for the morning was the Mississippi Kite, a small raptor that forages mostly on flying insects and is known to nest in only two locations in Iowa: Des Moines (around Greenwood-Ashworth Park) and Ottumwa. Though the kite was our target, we were excited to see what other birds we could find!

    Upon embarking up the road to the main portion of the park, we were quickly greeted by the scolding calls of a Tufted Titmouse, an uncommon bird in central Iowa, as well as the broken, burry song of a Yellow-throated Vireo. We paused briefly to search for these birds among the dense canopy of leaves but were unsuccessful. While waiting, however, we did take the opportunity to learn a bit about plants as there were several native Gray Dogwood shrubs along the woodland edge that were full of berries. These berries are an important food source for birds in winter as other food sources disappear. We continued up the road to be treated to great views and a comical performance from a family group of Eastern Bluebirds; the young birds were learning how to hawk for insects and were still a bit clumsy.

    After a brief stop to view a pair of female Mallards on the pond, we continued along the trail. We saw a Mourning Dove on the trail as well as a few American Robins low in the trees. We even stopped to view an interesting gathering of wasp-like insects at the base of a tree, later identified as Bald-faced Hornets (thanks to our friend James Baggett for the ID assistance). A bit further along the trail we stopped to search for a singing Indigo Bunting high in the treetop and were excited to find a flurry of bird activity. Gray Catbirds were flitting around in a small shrub in front of us, an Eastern Wood-Pewee was singing in the distance, and we later saw a female Baltimore Oriole and male Northern Cardinal. Just before moving along, a young birder spotted an Osprey flying high over the park likely en route to somewhere with warmer temperatures in winter. We spent 45 minutes in this one spot!

    We continued around the pond and back towards the vehicles. Though we did not find a Mississippi Kite, we were excited to close the morning with great views of a Broad-winged Hawk soaring over the park, another likely nesting resident. 

    Many thanks to the young birders, parents, and supporters who joined us for our first field trip in more than a year! We’re also grateful for the local knowledge of young birder Leo Gaukel and supporter James Baggett, both of whom spend a lot of time birding in the park.

    Click here to view photos from our trip and see our species list here.

  • May 02, 2021 7:40 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    Celebrate migratory birds with us in May and show off your unique, artistic abilities by participating in our Coloring Contest! All kids ages 1-18 years old are eligible to participate. Below are guidelines for the contest:

    • Coloring pages will be provided. You can pick them up at Wild Birds Unlimited in Ames (213 Duff Avenue) or can download and print them below. You can also email us (tyler@iowayoungbirders.org) to request a coloring page by email or conventional mail

    To download the coloring page for ages 1-10, click here

    To download the coloring page for ages 11-18, click here

    • All artistic media are allowed (e.g., crayons, colored pencils, paints)

    • Each child is allowed to submit one entry

    • Each entry must include the child’s name, age, and contact information for a parent or guardian

    • Entries must be dropped off at or mailed to Wild Birds Unlimited in Ames (213 Duff Avenue) by May 31, 2021. All entries will be displayed at the WBU store.

    • Entries will be judged on neatness and creativity in the following age groups: 1-5 years old, 6-10 years old, 11-15 years old, and 16 years old or older

    Prizes will be awarded to the best three pages in each age group, and those awarded a prize in each age group will be entered into a drawing for a brand new pair of Vortex Diamondback 8x28 binoculars!

    Thanks to our friends at Wild Birds Unlimited in Ames for co-sponsoring this fun event!

  • April 16, 2021 8:34 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    World Migratory Bird Day is May 8, 2021 - save the date to join folks across Iowa and the world to celebrate our migratory marvels! Below is a list of local events happening across the state. Enjoy a spring day of birding with friends!

    • Big Bluestem Audubon Society Annual Bird-a-thon (Ames; contact Eric Ollie for details)
    • Bird hike at Crooked Bend with Story County Conservation (Ames; click here for details)
    • Loess Hills Audubon Society Annual Bird-a-thon (Sioux City; contact Bill Huser for details)
    • Building Better Birders and Citizen Science workshops at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center (Sioux City; visit their events calendar for more information)
    • Iowa City Bird Club Annual Spring Migration Count (click here for details)
    • Birds and Brew - join Fayette County Conservation for a free cup of coffee and family-friendly bird hike at Echo Valley State Park (West Union; click here for details)
    • Saylorville Reservoir field trip with Des Moines Audubon (Des Moines; meet at the Saylorville Visitor Center at 8:00 AM)
    • World Migratory Bird Day celebration in Marion (Thomas Park from 12-3 PM)

    Know about an event happening hear you? Contact us to add it to our list! Click here to learn more about World Migratory Bird Day.

  • January 25, 2021 6:21 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    From June - August 2020, 170 young birders participated in our first Summer Birding Program. View photos from last summer shared by young birders and their families here, and click the link below for a short report on the success of the program as measured through a follow-up survey. 

    Summer Birding Program Report_2021.pdf

  • April 16, 2020 7:33 AM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    Meet Fawn Bowden, newly-elected Chair of our Board of Directors, long-time volunteer leader, and mother of two young birders!  

    Current town:  Riverside, Iowa

    Hometown:  Wyoming, Minnesota

    Fawn with her daughter, Mieka, viewing Sandhill Cranes from the blind at Rowe Audubon Sanctuary on our IAYB weekend trip to Kearney, Nebraska, March 2015.

    What sparked your interest in birds/nature?

    My father and grandmother were/are both bird and nature lovers.  My grandmother always had bird feeders up and filled and knew all about each bird that came to them.  I'll never forget the first time she showed me a Crossbill that was at her feeder (she lived in NW Wisconsin) and that its beak was crooked like that on purpose.  I also thought it was amazing that she seemed to have conversations with the chickadees, as they would always answer her calls.

    What is your favorite bird?

    That's a hard question, there are so many!  Probably the Common Loon for it's beautiful call and plumage and because it's the state bird of my home state of Minnesota.  The babies are adorable too.  Also any sort of owl.  They're often hard to find, so it seems special when you do see or hear one.

    What is your favorite birding/outdoor space?

    I've been exploring a new place each week with the kids during the stay-at-home precautions during the Covid-19 pandemic, so I think I may have a few new favorite places now! Pike Run Wildlife Area in Muscatine is pretty neat with some lowland woods and wetlands.  Clemmons Creek Wildlife and Recreation Area in Washington County has pristine woodlands, prairie and also wetlands.  Maskunky Marsh in Mahaska County can be a really good spot for shorebirds, if the water levels are low enough.  Of course Cone Marsh is great and we live about 25 minutes away, so I do go there quite a bit.

    Do you have young birders in your family?

    Yes, two, Mieka, 12 and Henry, 11.  Their desire to learn about birds ebbs and flows as other interests and activities come into their lives, but I'm hoping that they'll keep coming back to it with fondness as time/life permits.

    Do you remember your first Iowa Young Birders field trip?

    Yes!  Mieka and I both remember it very well.  It was to George Wyth SP to see Saw Whet Owls and see them we did.

    What has been your favorite Iowa Young Birders field trip thus far?

    It's hard to pick one, but the Saw Whet Owl trip and the Sandhill crane trip to Nebraska were favorites.

    What motivated you to become a Iowa Young Birders Board Member?

    I think it's important to support the things you believe in.

    Why do you feel exposing kids to birds and nature is important?

    So they can come to know, hopefully enjoy and value the natural world.  If they know it and love it, they will want to protect it and care for it.  Plus, it's important for them to know that humans and nature are interconnected and interdependent.

  • April 13, 2020 9:00 AM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    Iowa Young Birders recently received a $4,000 donation in memory of the late Don Sievers, lifelong Iowa birder and outdoor educator for the Department of Natural Resources at the Springbrook Conservation Education Center. The award was presented to Iowa Young Birders by Don's children, Shelby VanNordstrand, Chris Sievers, and Ashley Sievers, to honor their dad by helping educate young Iowans about the beautiful birds our state has to offer. 

    "We are extremely humbled by and grateful for this generous gift", said Executive Director Tyler Harms. "We are honored to continue Don's legacy of outdoor education and respect for nature through our programs".

    You can read more about Don below, including some of his favorite birding spots, in a note provided by his children, Shelby, Chris, and Ashley.

    The children of Don Sievers are pleased to present this memorial gift of $4,000 to Iowa Young Birders.  There is no better way to honor our Dad than by helping this organization educate young Iowans about the beautiful birds this state has to offer.  Our wish is for these youth to grow up in Iowa with the same appreciation and respect for nature that our dad instilled in us.  We cherish these lessons as we pass them on to our own children with help from the available programs and events that Iowa Young Birders offers.

    Whether it was banding birds at Springbrook Conservation Education Center or driving around the Greene county countryside, our dad was at peace outdoors.  He enjoyed the simple things in life; a cup of coffee and pair of binoculars always within reach.  His passion for the outdoors was only matched by his desire to spread nature’s offerings to others.

    Many donations from friends and family have made this gift possible.  We trust that these gifts will provide great opportunities for Iowa’s youth and encourage all to spend more time outdoors with family.


    Shelby VanNordstrand

    Chris Sievers

    Ashley Sievers

    Don lost his battle with pancreatic cancer over 3 years ago.  He and his late wife, Suzanne, raised their family in Jefferson.  He worked for the Iowa DNR for 34 years at Springbrook Conservation Education Center.

    Please check out some of Don’s favorite birding spots in Greene and Guthrie counties: Goose Lake, Dunbar Slough, Finn Pond, Springbrook State Park, McMahon Access, Henderson Park

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